From The PFW Archives – An Interview With Jason La Canfora of NFL Network

This column originally appeared in the July 29, 2009 edition of Patriots Football Weekly. 

La Canfora Hits The Ground Running At NFL Network

By Bruce Allen

Since the NFL Network was launched in 2003, viewers have become accustomed to seeing and hearing from the well-connected and enthusiastic Adam Schefter, who seemed synonymous with the network. Schefter however, was unable to come to terms with the network on a new contract this offseason, and ended up joining ESPN.

His replacement at NFL Network is 35-year-old Jason La Canfora, who spent the last several years covering the tumultuous Redskins beat for the Washington Post. La Canfora started at the network in June of this year, and has had to hit the ground running, stepping into the role vacated by Schefter. Gracious enough to speak with Patriots Football Weekly recently, La Canfora says he was “humbled and thrilled” when he found out that the NFL Network was even considering him for the position, which he describes as a “life-changing opportunity.” With the newspaper industry facing very difficult times at the moment, the decision to jump to NFL Network was an easy one, though he notes that the move made so much sense for he and his family that he would’ve made the same choice “in any economic climate, regardless of the issues facing newspapers.”

When asked how the transition from the newspaper to world to the world of network television is going, La Canfora answers: “I’m getting a better feel for what my schedule is going to be like, what an average work day feels like, etc, but once camps open and then the regular season begins, well, everything will change. It’s just incredibly exciting to be doing something new, working on a schedule outside of what a typical newspaper NFL beat feels like, getting to exercise new muscles in terms of information delivery.” The reception he has gotten from his new co-workers has been so welcoming that he says that “it really feels like being part of a family.”

A native of Baltimore, La Canfora will continue to make that his home base, even as he jets around the country in his new job. Despite growing up in Baltimore, he is a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. How does a kid from Baltimore end up part of Red Sox nation? “It’s kind of lame, I agree, but I promise I am not a bandwagon, jumper.” He explains: “I was sitting out at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore in the mid-80s with my Roger Clemens jersey on. Sadly, The Rocket’s ascent was a big part of why I was drawn to Red Sox nation, and since he’s left I’ve never been able to stomach the man. But his 20 strikeout game was a big deal for me – I was 12 at the time – and the Sox obviously went on an amazing run that season and I shed many a tear during the ’86 ALCS – my dad ran upstairs, while I was crying into a pillow – to tell me about Hendu’s homer. And then Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, well, I still can’t watch highlights of Ray Knight and Mookie Wilson and Jesse Orosco throwing his glove in the air without feeling ill.”

His cheery, bespectacled exterior belies a competitive, sometimes combative nature. While covering the Redskins, La Canfora drew the ire of team owner Daniel Snyder and GM Vinny Cerrato for his candid reporting on how the Redskins franchise was being run. Cerrato blasted La Canfora on his radio show, and La Canfora shot back at the organization. According to DCProSportsReport.com, the incident “led some Redskins fans to regard LaCanfora as hostile to the team.” The site notes though, that La Canfora was, in reality, “only hostile to the incompetent and hyper-sensitive team management.” Ironically, now that he is with the NFL Network, 1/32 of his paycheck will be coming from the Redskins. La Canfora says he doesn’t view it that, way, but rather approaches this job as he would any other reporting job. He says “Eric Weinberger, the executive producer of the NFL Network – and someone I am very grateful to for giving me this opportunity – told me that he was interested in me because of the kind of journalism I have produced, and that the expectation would be that I continue to dig deep and look for the best information possible to serve our readers and viewers at NFL Network and NFL.com. He adds: “As with everything else, fairness and accuracy must carry the day, and my goal is always to provide all sides of an issue, inform as best I can, and fans will form their own opinions.”

Finally, asked for his thoughts on what to expect from the Patriots this season, he responded: “I think they are the team to beat. I have so much respect for that organization, the way they build a team, how shrewd they are, how they value draft picks, the overall sense that no individual is bigger than the collective – save for Bill Belichick, perhaps, as it should be.” Any potential weaknesses fans should be concerned about? “I don’t see much glaring in terms of what they lack. The running game will be under scrutiny as will some additions to the secondary, but I thought that Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs were two of the best values out there as veteran corners, and both ended up with the Pats. The passing attack could be as explosive as it was two years ago, and I love how the defense has transitioned, especially with Mayo now in the middle. To me they go into the season as favorites.”

  • Sands

    Living in the Washington DC area for the past 15 years, I've had the pleasure of following Jason's career at Wash Post, his move to NFL and his regular radio spot on the Tony Kornheiser show.

    In my opinion, Richard Justice is the best in the business. His ability to develop sources and his versatility covering different sports is unmatched. Jason is second only to Richard Justice as a beat writer.

    Jason started out on the Capitals beat before switching over to Redskins beat and moved on to cover the NFL for the Post. He was to Redskins beat what Mike Reiss is to Patriots beat and then some. He is great in print, on radio or TV.

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  • latetodinner

    I know this is off topic but since Bruce is not here I figured this was as good a place as any to put a post on local media observations this morning. I have three:

    1) T & R have Bert Breer on where he loudly proclaims that the Ravens will win. His reasoning is the Ravens defense will hold the Pats offense and Flacco is good enough to beat the Pats defense. Now Breer may or may not hold this belief. What got me this am is that it appeared to me that Breer was only picking the Ravens because of his dislike of the Pats or their fans. I am not sure which. I thought Rich did a good job of calling him out…it got a bit testy with Fred forcing the show to take a break to end the segment. I don't get Breer or his schtick. If he thinks being anti patriots is a way to make a reputation…that says a whole lot to me about his lack of faith in his own talent to develop actual stories.

    2) Last Sunday the Pats, Bruins and Celtics were all playing at the same time (or there was overlap). The Pats had a 41 share, the Bruins a 2.3 and the Celtics a 0.8. I am not convinced WEEI would not have been better off without an end to the lockout. Furthermore the pressure Danny Ainge must feel to do something has to be extreme hence the trading of Pierce rumors. Still…a .8 in January…ouch…I am surprised they did not move the game start time.

    3)There is nothing better than Pats/Rams in London 2012 talk in the middle of AFC Championship week! Seriously D & C you had to ask the London fan club guy to break down the game for us and then give him 3 minutes to do it. Was the Bangladesh fan club guy not available?

    • bsmfan

      #1) I was thinking the same. I completely agree on the observation as well. I could careless who he or any analyst picks (most are going Pats from reading across ESPN/Yahoo/etc), but it seems like there is something beyond the "better team" that motivates him.Given some of his reporting lately and commentary, I felt the same. Does the guy just hate the Patriots for some reason? I understand when Kordell Stewart and Jon Richie go after the Pats on ESPN, but why him? It seems like he goes out of his way–really–to pick anything anti-Pats.

      3.) This was confirmed today. Why the Pats? Hmm.. Lots of speculation today about the Rams moving to London. Peter King, in some of his MMQB columns, has speculated that a London team is not out of the question.

      Did anyone see the race bombing article from Jason Whitlock? Nothing new when it comes to shill journalism here but I thought he was better. Link: http://on-msn.com/xcl1uS

      I'll break it down: Patriots represent "White" and Ravens are "Black". No, this isn't the color of their jerseys but the skin color of the makeup of their team. You expect this garbage from a Bomani Jones, Jemele Hill or Rob Parker, but now him? Yup, we're at that point. I don't even know where to begin on this.

      • latetodinner

        I saw the Whitlock column and promptly relegated Whitlock to the place in hell I have reserved for Gregg Easterbrook. I will never read him again.

      • Winning_

        I regret giving the article the hit. D'oh, dont read. It's fools like Whitlock that propagate race wars and keep us in the 18th century.

    • mandb97

      Late, interesting you bring up Breer, Last week he tepidly picked the Patriots over the Broncos. He believed like many of the local "experts" did and thought that the reigns had been removed and Tim Tebow, who would light up the Patriots defensive backs. Many people called Breer out because he seemed to dismiss the horrendous gameplan of Dick Lebeau. As the Patriots started to pull away from the Broncos, Breer was getting hammered on twitter. He snapped at a couple of critics saying, "I picked you guys to win" while calling some other fans insufferable. He showed what a thin skin he has. I think there is no question that Bert Breer has a great dislike for fans of the New England Patriots. I think it does cloud his judgement.

      • bsmfan

        I don't think anyone cares if he picks another team besides the Patriots, but it seems like more of a subtle campaign and vendetta–which some of the posts hint at. At least Richie and Kordell Stewart have, over the years, mentioned their bias but seem to be able to get over it (Richie has more than Kordell). What's not fun is the smugness of it where you're trying to be cute or clever about it.

        One would think or trust that a reporter for a very legit and solid operation like the NFL Network leaves all their baggage behind when joining. I'd understand if he's not a fan of Hoodie after covering him but the constant sniping at the team seems personal and excessive. Is Robert Kraft going to walk out to his car after a long day at the office and find Albert Breer dumpster diving looking for more spygate stuff?

        On "bias", if you look at his current twitter timeline, he at least he admits that he's bias about hyping up Tressel after the news of him getting the interview for the Indy HC job.

        From @albertbreer (responding to a comment about Tressel and the NCAA sanctions)

        @RapSheet He got caught cheating and was punished, justly, for it. Doesn't mean he can't coach. You get an example of that daily.

        (@Rapsheet responds)
        @AlbertBreer Big 10 titles… come on. Half of Big 10 is Indiana and Northwestern. I'd agree he's a Top 50 coach in the last 50 years. Maybe

        @RapSheet Amazing how perception of him has changed over the last 12 months. One of the greatest college coaches of the last 50 years.

        There is no link between NCAA and college at this point when it comes to punishment, but isn't a cheat always a cheat? It's funny how he goes to defend one of his guys without a problem.

        If any of you have Buckeye friends, especially if they were @ OSU during the Glory days, you know how bad the hype can be. Just ask them about "the game" this year or how bad the SEC owns them if you want some conniption fits, but that's another thing.
        —-
        On bias, I might have to correct that: @AlbertBreer Would be a good hire. And not b/c he's a Buckeye. RT @DanWetzel: Colts to interview Jim Tressel for head coaching job per @indystar

        I'm sure it's a legit interview but why is this the first attention anyone has given to Tressel if he is this good?

      • bsmfan

        And, on bias, I think we can understand this one:
        http://i.imgur.com/9uaef.png

        (Yes, Coach is Billick)

  • mandb97

    It was laughable hearing Michael Felger today lie about his feelings of the Patriots defense. A caller called out Felger and Maz about talking about yards being an important stat for a defense. Felger said he does not consider yards to be important. At that moment, his nose grew about a foot. For over three quarters of the season Felger and his pet parrot talked about the "historically bad defense". Felger, of course, tried to turn it around say that Patriots talk about points allowed as being important but they are 15th, which is middle of the pack and not great. Felger needs to realize that fans do know that the scoring defense is average but they are not the historically bad D he and his parrot say they are. I will give the parrot some credit. He still says the defense is horrendous but improving (whatever that means). Parrot is at least consistent. He is still a moron but a consistent moron.

    Danny Ainge saying that he is willing to trade any of the big three is one of the bigger non-stories in recent memory. Ainge had said the same thing to Ian Thomsen a couple of years ago. (unfortunately I can't find the article) Ainge talked about the trades that Red Auerbach did not make for Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. He promised that he would not put the Celtics in the same position. He says the same thing yesterday and it becomes big news and Rajon Rondo is crying when asked about it. Are you kidding me? Where was all the hysteria when Ainge first this two years ago?

  • mandb97

    I will now give reason #357 why I barely listen to the Big Show anymore. I actually put it on the show for five minutes this afternoon. Here was the gist of it.

    Caller: I really like our matchup on the tight end.
    Glenn Ordway: blah blah blah
    Michael Holley: Well Fred I think.
    Ordway: (interrupts) blah blah blah

    Caller: I don't think you can compare 2009 with 2011
    Ordway: blah blah blah (notice how Glenn is the first to speak)
    Holley: Well Joe I think…
    Ordway: (interrupts) Well look who just entered the door three and a half minutes early
    Holley: Yeah Joe…
    Ordway: In case your wondering Tom E. Curran, the dragon, has entered the studio.
    Holley: Joe I think….
    me: "click"

    Glenn Ordway still has not learned how to be a host. He still interrupts at every possible moment. He still thinks he is the star of the show. He does not realize he has a co-host. I have read from writers like Chad Finn that the chemistry between Ordway and Holley has improved. It has not. I really feel that WEEI will have a decision when Glenn Ordway's contract is up. There is no doubt the ratings for the Big Show has improved due to their FM signal, but I do not think they will ever pass Felger and Maz in the ratings because, as I have said, Glenn Ordway is so bad at his job.

    In the category of a dead clock is right twice a day, Danny from Quincy, that's right Danny from Quincy, said that Zoltan Mesko will be a major factor in the game Sunday and he is dead right. Mesko was third in the league in Net Average. Of his 57 punts, 24 were inside the 20 while only three were touchbacks. Only Tim Mathsay of Green Bay was comparable to Mesko in that category.

    • latetodinner

      So mandb you turned off the big show about when I started to listen. Tom Curran of course brought his A game…an excellent discussion about the Pats second half defense which has given up 56 points in the last 8 games…21 of them to the Colts in garbage time for an average of about 4 points a game in the second half (if you take out the Colts points). His bigger point is that the Pats seem to be excellent at adjusting on defense during games a fact that no one is focusing on. As you point out the talking heads starting with Felger and Maz are already starting to back track on the Defense sucks mantra because it just isn't true.

      • mandb97

        Late, I would have loved to have listened to it, but Ordway is so much more insufferable than F&M and that is saying a lot. I wish when Curran had come into the studio Ordway would have gone home. I actually would have listened.

  • bsmfan

    A little early but James Walker did a post yesterday of the AFC East 2012 Salary Cap projections on ESPN. Care to take a guess who is way under and who is way over?
    http://espn.go.com/blog/afceast/post/_/id/37447/p

    I spoiled the irony with my lead-in above but, yes, we're 20m under the salary cap.

    A few excerpts:

    Buffalo Bills (6-10) Projected cap: $105.5 million
    Miami Dolphins (6-10) Projected cap: $114.3 million
    New England Patriots (13-3) Projected cap: $99.9 million
    New York Jets (8-8) Projected cap: $125 million

    Walker also describes a few key FA's for each team, clearly putting us ahead and leaving major room to address defensive issues via FA.

    Even better? A post I found via SOSH has the Steelers at north of 140m. http://sonsofsamhorn.net/topic/70393-2012-pittsbu

    WIth the "projected" cap at 120-130m from what I've read, it leaves a lot of room.

    Yup, we're in a really great position. While Wekler might eat up 7-10m more, I'm sure we might shave another 6m from another place.

    • mandb97

      bsm haven't you heard, Michael Felger has informed all of us that "the cap is crap". He thinks you can keep a team together by slashing contracts and cutting dead weight. He has no clue that the cap actually allows a team to have plenty of depth. Felger's pet parrot on the show gave an affirmative "sqwak" on the cap.

      • bsmfan

        It has become a common thread. As I have stated, I've contacted F+M about getting Andrew Brandt (@adbrant) on their show. He is a former Packers VP and an expert capologist. Felger was nice enough to reply stating something to the extent that they were working on him. If it does come up again, which I will press via email, I am going to suggest it. I told him that it would clear up all all myths about the cap is crap. I figure that Felger is good enough to get someone like him on (he makes lots of radio appearances).